Labor strife isn’t just affecting General Motors Co. in the United States where 49,000 workers of the United Auto Workers have gone on strike, but also in Mexico where employees at the company’s critical assembly plant in Silao have petitioned to have the plant’s existing union, the CTM, replaced by an independent union.
The workers at the plant have said the right to petition for a new union that will allow them to vote on a contract that respects their rights. “Workers have had enough of the corruption of the CTM,” one letter, originally posted on Facebook in Spanish, said.
All the GM de Mexico team is saying at this point in time is that they are “complying with all labor laws in Mexico,” GM spokesman David Barnas said in e-mail, declining further comment.
Under a series of labor reforms approved last spring by Mexico’s new President Andreas Manuel Lopez Obrador, unions must hold regular monthly meetings, allow members to vote on contracts negotiated and review the financial reports of the unions to which they belong just as they do in the United States.
Mexican workers are supposed to belong to a labor union by law but the CTM, the powerful central labor confederation has held sway over Mexican workplaces for generations. The CTM is opposed to the labor reforms promoted by Lopez-Obrador’s government because it would disrupt the traditional system of “white contracts,” contracts over which the union members have little or no say, noted Harley Shaiken, an expert in labor relation from the University of California – Berkley.
Historically, the system has kept wages in Mexico low and the CTM has sued in a number – and in some case won – in a number of state courts in Mexico to block the mild reforms imposed by Mexico’s new labor laws.
Shaiken also noted that workers who challenged the authority of the CTM are probably risking retaliation of some kind up to and including dismissal by the employer.
The so-called “white contracts” between the CTM and employers that are never seen by Mexican workers are part of the system that have shifted jobs from the U.S. to Mexico, according experts.
In addition, Rep. Andy Levin (D-Michigan), who has studied the issue, estimated there are something like 700,00 separate labor contracts in Mexico and no mechanisms for policing or enforcing them.
The utter lack of the Mexican government’s ability to enforce the labor law reforms and police violations is one of the reasons organized labor in the U.S. doesn’t believe the new United States Mexico Canada Agreement will correct the problems created by NAFTA, according to Jim Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
The new version of NAFTA proposed by the Trump administration essentially does nothing to inequities in wages and working conditions of workers in Mexico, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan) Manufacturing jobs will continue to move from the U.S. to Mexico under the new NAFTA if it is approved by Congress.
GM’s Mexican plants are one of the underlying issues in what has become the longest national strike by the UAW in nearly half a century.
For UAW members, it’s something they just know. NAFTA bled UAW jobs. But as the “New NAFTA” (called the USMCA) makes its way to the Senate for debate, how bad was the old NAFTA? Well … pretty bad, according to the UAW website.
Since NAFTA passed in 1994, the Mexican auto workforce grew seven-fold from 112,000 to 767,000 — all but 7% in parts. In 1994, the U.S. accounted for 82.57% of the workforce and by 2016, that number had dwindled to 51.3%.
Meanwhile, GM of Canada announced the layoffs of 1,200 workers from its assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario, because of parts shortages created by the strike in the U.S. The plant’s assembly line is scheduled to close in December as part of the broad restructuring that GM announced in November 2018.